It’s hard to separate Halloween from the experience of trick or treating and collecting loads of candy. That’s why I say: let your kids eat their candy, with some minimal limits. Yes, in my ideal world, my kids would never be exposed to that junk, especially in those quantities, but this is the real world, so I adjust my expectations.
The healthy-living approach I’ve advocated on this blog, is one of balance. I keep my kids as healthy as possible in the house, so that when we indulge, we can go all out and enjoy! Halloween is one of the hardest days on the calendar to wage the good fight against food coloring, refined sugars, corn syrup, GMOs, and all those other lovely ingredients–if I don’t let my kids eat treats, they are going to feel deprived, and feeling deprived is exactly what my healthy-living philosophy is meant to avoid. So on holidays like Halloween–when highly processed and colored chemicals, I mean, food, are central to the celebration, I let my kids enjoy (almost) like everyone else.
But, I do set some boundaries and follow some sneaky strategies to ensuring that when they indulge, they won’t indulge too much:
- Depending on the time you go trick or treating, make sure to feed your kids a healthy early dinner or filling snack beforehand. If they get full before trick or treating, they are bound to eat less. And, as the parent, you’ll feel better knowing they actually consumed some nutrients before shoving pretend food into their bodies. Be strict about this early dinner/snack: give your kids the healthiest thing they are willing to eat (veggies, anyone?) and tell them, “we’ll only head out once you’ve finished your meal/snack.”
- Avoid grazing while trick or treating. If your kids are noshing on their goodies while walking from house to house, they’re bound to eat a lot of it, without even realizing or feeling satisfied. When we eat distractedly, our bodies don’t register satisfaction. So tell your kids, “Let’s hold off eating our candy until we get home…and then we will have a candy party!”
- Once home, have your kids pick out X number of candies to eat that evening. Choose the number that works for you. If it’s 1 or 2, they’re bound to be upset. I’d allow between 3 and 5, which is plenty of candy to eat in one sitting. The point is to let them indulge, but set a limit. The truth is, that many kids will stop eating on their own after that amount, anyway.
- What to do with the remaining piles of candy? Get it out of the house–out of sight, out of mind–and pander to your kids’ do-gooder instincts (they do have those, right?). Tell your child that it’s important to share their goodies with kids who are less fortunate, and that you will be taking the rest of the candy to kids in hospitals or shelters (or name your favorite kids’ charity). Seriously, if you don’t have time to drop the candy off at a local institution that helps kids, then just bring it to work and share around the office: by taking that crap out of the house, you’re donating to your own charity: mykidshealth.org.
- If you face too much resistance, let them choose 5 to 10 candies that they are allowed to eat, one per day, over the following weeks as a reward for doing a chore or eating a healthy meal. Let your candy work for you! In my house, special treats are given out freely only on rare occasions. Usually, I use dessert to my advantage by giving it to my kids only after they’ve finished a healthy meal, cleaned up, or completed another task that I want done.
So, there you have it: done and done! Let your kids enjoy their candy within very reasonable limits, no one feels deprived, and you just helped your kids do a good deed. Does life get any better than a win-win for all?
Let me know how it goes!
P.S. By the way, this approach can be followed if your kids collect candy after birthday parties and other holidays, Purim and Easter!